Saturday, June 24, 2023

Meet Pastor John Harper

I'd never heard this story before. Have you?

Meet Pastor John Harper

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” – Acts 16:31

John Harper was born May 29, 1872 in Scotland. He grew up in a Christian home and at age 13, he confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior of his life and at 17, he began preaching. At 25, Harper started Paisley Road Baptist Church in Glasgow, Scotland and the church grew from 25 members to over 500.

Harper’s wife died from complications in childbirth in 1906. After that his wife’s niece Jessie W. Leitch helped take care of his daughter Annie Jessie.

Harper became a renowned evangelist and was serving as the pastor of Walworth Road Baptist Church, in London when he was invited to speak at The Moody Church in Chicago in 1910. He spoke for 3 months and it went so well that he was invited back to speak for another 3 months of meetings.

To fulfill that commitment, on April 10, 1912, Harper, 39, his six-year-old daughter and his niece boarded a ship in Southhampton, England heading for New York. That ship was Titanic and at 11:40 pm on April 14, it hit an iceberg and sank a couple of hours later.

But this is the rest of the story.

When Harper realized the fate of the ship, he put his daughter and niece into lifeboat number 11. There weren’t enough lifeboats to save everyone so, Harper began preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” he shouted.

Harper had no fear of being called a religious nutcase or a fanatic. He didn’t care about offending anyone else’s religious beliefs. His love for lost people spurred him to tell them that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) That name is Jesus Christ.

Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees, surrounded by terrified passengers, praying for their salvation.

At 2:20 am, the ship disappeared below the surface and Harper along with over 1,000 people fought to survive in the frigid water. Knowing his time was short, Harper took off his life jacket and threw it to another person and shouted, “You need this more than I do!”

Floating debris became Harper’s pulpit as he used it to swim from person to person preaching, “Are you saved?” When a desperate man said, “No, I’m not saved.” Harper shouted, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”

In 2012, Moody Church pastor Irwin Lutzer wrote, “This Gospel does not spare us from drowning in an ocean, but it does spare us from a far worse eternal destruction.”

Four years later, a survivor told his story at a reunion of Titanic survivors. “I was one of only six people out of 1,517 to be pulled from the icy waters on that dreadful night. Like hundreds around me, I found myself struggling in the cold, dark waters of the North Atlantic. The wail of the perishing was ringing in my ears when there floated by me a man who called to me, ‘Is your soul saved?’ Then I heard him call out to others as he and everyone around me sank beneath the waters. There, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I cried to Christ to save me. I am John Harper’s last convert.”

Harper’s daughter and niece were rescued by the ship, Carpathiaand arrived safely in New York. At that time, the Moody Church’s acting Pastor Reverend Woolley and a deacon traveled to New York to give them clothes and money so they could return to Scotland. Harper’s daughter grew up and married a pastor. She died in 1986.

Today, at Moody Church, one of its rooms is named Harper Hall in memory of the Scottish evangelist.

It’s been 111 years since the Titanic disaster when 1,517 people passed into eternity.

With the implosion of the OceanGate Titan sub, those waters have now taken five more souls. Death awaits all of us.

Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

There were 2 kinds of people onboard Titanic that fateful night: saved and unsaved. Like the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus, one was unsaved but the other one admitted that he deserved his punishment and asked Jesus to remember him when he entered his kingdom. That simple faith was all it took and Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And so he was saved.

Which kind of person are you?

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